SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) - Sedgwick County officials are sending a warning to property owners after they claim a Kansas prisoner fraudulently transferred ownership of properties.
"He has gone to the point of transferring ownership of different properties in Wichita to an organization called The Kingdom of Moorish America," said Sedgwick County Clerk Kelly Arnold.
According to a Google search, The Kingdom of Moorish America is a religious organization.
However, Arnold does not believe the organization is the group who transferred the ownership of property.
Instead, he claims an inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility is behind the fraudulent filings.
"When you have a document sent to you from the Department of Corrections, from a prisoner, those things kind of bring a red flag, especially when it's a property that has got notoriety here in Wichita," Arnold said.
One of the notable properties includes Joyland.
"He has researched the official identifying properties of Joyland, has entered that into a deed, has claimed that he is the seller, has now transferred that to another organization," Arnold explained.
"Because of the way our Kansas laws are written, we can't stop this. Right now, the only way for Joyland to get their property back is going to court."
Arnold and Sedgwick County Register of Deeds Tonya Buckingham told KSN it's not difficult to file a deed on a property. They said a person must fill out a blank deed, get it notarized and pay a fee to the recorder of deeds.
Buckingham said her office has no choice but to record the deed if all of that is done correctly.
"That's what's so scary is that someone could come in and file a deed on your property and we would not know it's a fraudulent deed and it would go over to another department and transfer the record," Buckingham said.
"Once the deed is filed in the Register of Deeds Office, we receive it in the County Clerk's Office. This is where I am able to at least stop the process as much as I can and say you know we need additional information on it before we completely transfer this property in the tax record," Arnold said.
However, state law prevents Buckingham and Arnold from stopping the transfer of the deed.
"We do not have the right tools given to us by the legislature and we need the legislature to act on this and be able to help us stop fraud and protect our citizens," Arnold said.
Arnold said protecting citizens and those who have already fallen victim is of utmost importance.
"The problem with this is it's on the victim. It's on the victim to go to court, to spend that money to hire an attorney, to go through this whole process when we know right at the beginning this is a fraudulent document," he said.
Arnold and Buckingham said their offices have identified four fraud victims related to this particular inmate.
They include the owners of Joyland Amusement Company, Inc., Wellness Place LLC, a former Greyhound bus terminal, and a home in Sedgwick County.
"My question is, 'How does he have the access to file these deeds? Where can we stop him?'" Arnold said.
The Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) said it has launched an investigation into the matter.
A KDOC spokesperson said inmates are allowed to send and receive processed paper mail and email. He said inmates and outside parties can buy stamps to send the mail.
KSN asked KDOC what kind of access prisoners have to computers and the internet.
A spokesperson said inmates have some internet access, but it is monitored and restricted to training and educational programs only.
The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office also confirmed it is investigating the case. However, no charges have been filed.
Because no charges have been filed, KSN has decided not to release the inmate's name.
KSN reached out to the actual owners of Joyland. They did not want to comment on this story.
Arnold said he has also notified all of the victims involved.
He added if the actual Joyland owners don't take this to court soon, it could cause potential problems when the property goes up for auction in November.
"The big picture, we want to protect everybody from anyone who might be doing this. You know, right now this is a prisoner. Tomorrow, it could be somebody else and we want to protect the citizens of Sedgwick County," Arnold said.
Sedgwick County has created a free program to protect the information of property owners.
Property Activity Alert sends owners an email notification if there are any changes of ownership or financing of their property. It also shows people how to file a complaint in the case of fraud.
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